By Stephanie Woodard
Chamberlain is where he and other tribal members have long shopped and done their business. However, its high school wouldn’t allow a Sioux honor song to be performed during its recent late-May graduation—even though about one-third of the student body is Native, and there’s a petition signed by staff and students requesting it. The song was eventually presented, but outdoors, across the street, rather than inside at the ceremony.
The tall, strapping chairman is still fuming. “Their refusal is ringing in my ears,” Sazue said.
The tribe’s history has been especially painful, and opportunities to celebrate are valued. Fort Thompson, where most of the 3,000-member tribe lives, was originally a prison camp. Most tribal members are descended from Dakotas exiled there from Minnesota following the Dakota–U.S. War of 1862. The journey was so grueling that many, including hundreds of children, died of starvation and disease, writes Mdewakanton Dakota author Diane Wilson in Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life.
Sazue isn’t requiring anyone to join his boycott, and it’s not known how many individuals have followed his lead. But one prominent business is joining the boycott: the tribe’s Lode Star Casino, in Fort Thompson. The casino’s board of directors voted in early June to begin purchasing goods and services—from beverages to air-conditioner repair—from non-Chamberlain suppliers, Sazue said.